United Way partners with schools to impact education

Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. When a child drops out it costs our community $260,000 in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.1 When communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together, we can increase the number of students graduating on time and ready for college or work.

Our Goals

United Way of Cascade County’s education initiative Graduation Matters uses cradle-to-career strategies.

  • Kindergarten readiness: Whether it’s knowing their ABC’s or how to stand still in a line after recess, we want every child to start school ready to learn and prepared to succeed.
  • Third grade reading: Because after third grade students need to read to learn, students who can’t read at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of school. By pairing students with mentors and offering extra homework help, we hope to increase the number of children reading proficiently from 87 percent to 95 percent.
  • Attendance: Even the best and brightest student will struggle to succeed if they don’t attend class. Freshman who miss two or more weeks of school per semester flunk at least two classes—even if they start high school with top test scores. Parent and student volunteers are working on creative and relevant incentives to reduce the number of high school students who are chronically absent from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5.
  • High school graduation: High school drop outs are four times as likely to be unemployed as someone with four or more years of college. Seven in 10 inmates in Montana State Prison dropped out. Graduates are healthier, less likely to live in poverty or need public assistance and are seven times more likely to own their home. Since the Graduation Matters initiative began in 2011, the number of drop outs plummeted from 210 to 92. 


Our Strategy


To advance our education initiative, Graduation Matters, we work collaboratively with local agencies, including the school district, to help more pre-schoolers prepare for kindergarten, more elementary students improve their reading skills, more high school students attend class and more seniors graduate on time and ready for the next step in their lives. Ultimately, the effort relies on parents, students, teachers, businesses and the community at large to work together to ensure our students graduate on time and ready for work or college. We believe education is a cradle to career commitment that affects our entire community and structure our efforts based on that philosophy.


How You Can Help

To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. Volunteer to help.

1Figure according to Communities in Schools, one of America’s leading drop-out prevention partnerships.


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